Editorial: Going to make your ears bleed tonight!

Trent Ernst


Back in 1986, my favourite musician/satirist Steve Taylor released a live album called Limelight.

Before breaking into a song that took aim at Bob Jones university, equating its stance on interracial dating with apartheid South Africa (Bumper sticker on his Ford/Says Honkies if you love the Lord/We don’t need no colour code), Taylor banters with the audience, saying this song is done in an “African call-and-response format.”

Then, he yells a challenge to the audience, which is one of my favourite lines ever: “Gonna make my ears bleed tonight?” The audience roars in appreciation, and the song kicks in with its signature Bo Diddley beat.

At least, it was one of my favourite lines until this weekend, when my youngest’s ear started to bleed. And I discovered that it’s not fun, but quite terrifying.

It was made even more so by the fact that we live in Tumbler Ridge, and her ear started to bleed on Friday night, after the clinic closed for the weekend.

Now, her ear had been hurting the previous evening, to a point where she spent much of the night laying in bed with mom, whimpering because of the pain. (I, of course, got kicked out of bed and had to sleep downstairs.)

Friday morning, Colette took her to the clinic, where she was assigned a course of antibiotics and ear drops.

So imagine the horror when, going to put the ear drops in for the third time of the day, Colette discovered that her ear canal was coated in blood.

At which point in time, what do you do? Is this something caused by the drops? Is this normal?

So, we go looking online for what might have caused this. Dr Helm said he suspected swimmer’s ear, but it was tough to tell because it was so swollen. But while there is some drainage expected with swimmer’s ear, the interwebs tell me it’s supposed to be a yellowish green pus. Which sounds disgusting, but would be a lot better than what is happening currently.

Another option? “Bleeding from the ear may be a sign of cancer,” advises one site cheerfully.

Which is not a place I want to go; we already dealt with that with our eldest daughter; I don’t want to even consider that with our youngest.

Or maybe the ear drum has ruptured/been punctured. “Whatever the cause,” says the Internet, “you need to get it checked out by a doctor immediately.”

Which is not something that can be done, without initiating a 9-1-1 call, and that might be a little overkill, considering she’s already being treated. And, despite the horror show happening in her ear, she says she’s feeling a lot better.

I suggest driving her to the hospital in Dawson. Because she’s not in pain, I don’t feel right calling 9-1-1. That’s for car accidents and heart attacks, not for kids who say they feel fine, even if their ear is bleeding.

Rather than drive in, I call first. The nurse on duty speaks to the doctor on duty, who says that if she’s already being treated, then the best option is to stay the course, and that, while not usual, this is nothing we should be worried about.

The next day, I run the situation past Dr Helm, and he says the same thing: don’t worry.

So here we are, a few days later. The ear has been cleaned out and everything seems to be going well. We are going to take her back in, because, while the symptoms are going away, we need to see if there’s something more causing this.

This whole thing got me thinking about the good things and the bad things about small town living. And yes, the fact that the clinic is not staffed 24-hours a day is one of those things that we have to accept as part of the cost of living here.

But if it truly had been an emergency, help was just a 9-1-1 call away. We might have had to wait for an ambulance to come in from Dawson, but that’s a different story altogether.

And despite these issues, I’m still more than happy living here, and I still feel the benefits more than outweigh the drawbacks. But yes, there are some mighty concerning drawbacks…